Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Are writer's selfish?

I recently had two conversations with people I know are writers. The first one was a new acquaintance and someone mentioned to me they were a writer. So I decided to probe and find out how serious of a writer they were. I asked them what their book was about and this person gave me a single sentence, succinct summary. I was pleasantly astonished and continued to ask questions. I found out they were a serious writer, had paid to take a few writing courses online, and hoped to be published someday.
Knowing how avid writers usually are about networking, I thought for sure this person would ask me about my novel, or at least ask if I've ever been published.
But apparently not. They were quite content to go on talking about their own novel and philosophy on writing, and even acted like they were better than me for having taken an online writing course. I quickly lost interest and stopped asking questions.

I also had a phone conversation with another writer I know. This person I've known for years and we've talked about writing before. Every time we talk, they sit on the other end of the telephone waiting for me to ask questions. It's like pulling teeth to have a conversation. This person also acts as if his writing is some sacred jewel of information that should be leaked out slowly and only to those who prove they really want to know.

So what is it about writers that make us such bad conversationalists about our own craft?
Are we selfish and use awkward silences to force others into asking us about our books? Or are we just scared people will steal our ideas? Should we be?

Or perhaps so few people ask us about our work that we're just not used to coming up with words to describe it. Maybe we're just afraid the other person won't understand our writerly jargon, or will think we're nuts for trying out rubbish ideas.

Still, I don't think any of the above are good reasons to hide what you've put your heart and soul into. A writer survives by building publicity these days and mouth to mouth is the most powerful way of spreading your fame.
But not only is your one sentence book idea spread easily between mouths, your attitude is as well. Be kind. Reciprocate to us poor souls who are more interested in you as a person than in your story. We want to have a two way conversation, not just have you perform for us by talking endlessly about your novel. Don't get me wrong, I love a good story. But I'd rather have you as a friend than an entertainer.


  1. Exception: When you and I talk on the phone, I get you to tell me EVERYTHING you've been thinking about in your characters. :) It's fun. I unfortunately usually can only tell you about my chemistry and students--my poor stories sit on the sidelines of my life for the most part.

    Are writer's selfish? Well, I suppose so, but I think the word you might be describing egotistical rather than selfish. I think sometimes it's hard to get out of your own head after you've been wracking it for ideas.

  2. That's true. You totally get me to spill the beans about everything. I can't keep secrets from you. If someone ever throws you a surprise birthday party, it won't be me.

  3. HAHAHAHAHA! That would be hilarious. Kevin could totally do it though. :)